Sunday, January 26, 2014

Free! - Iwatobi Swim Club Anime Review

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This is the first sport's  and school club anime I have ever watched.  This is also the first anime I have seen that was targeted at fangirls and was not yaoi or shounen ai.
Free!  Iwatobi Swim Club starts with four friends (Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin) who used to swim together in tournaments.  Years pass by and everyone parts ways while Rin moves to Australia.  When Haruka, Makoto, and Nagisa reunite years later in high school, Nagisa gets the idea to clean and fix the run down swimming pool at their school and try to make a new swimming club.
 When an older Rin (who goes to a different High School) returns to Japan and meets his former buddies, he is mad that Haruka has stopped swimming competitively.   Haruka, Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin soon enter in swimming competitions against Rin, ultimately bonding with each other and finding out the true reason for Rin's distant behavior.
Like most sport's anime, Free! does explain to the viewers, through the characters, different styles of swimming.  Haruka is EXTREMELY excited to go swimming in the water.  With his excitement for water in general, I would not be surprised if water was not the only thing being filled in the run down swimming pool.  When Summer comes around again, I'm sure some people would love to try the freestyle, butterfly, or backstroke.
Free has some funny moments.  I enjoyed the moments when the Iwatobi Swim Club was teaching their new member Rei how to swim because he joined the swim club without knowing how to swim.   Rei is a wonderfully exaggerated version of the nerd archetype and watching him follow Rin during a festival had me laughing up a storm.  The characters in Free!  are not three dimensional but, as the anime goes on, characters' personalities become fleshed out.   I was surprised when I found why Rin was such an ass toward the end of Free! and I started to like him.
As far as the fanservice goes,  Free! is not that bad compared to the ongoing rise of fanservice in general for anime these days.  None of the male characters walk around completely nude.  In fact, most of Free!'s fanservice involves physically fit male characters swimming shirtless with various camera angles.  Because, you know, most males swim shirtless.  Any moment when of the characters are nude, the view is from a far distance.  
One thing I found fascinating with Free is that the fanservice is only targeted at fangirls and thus, the female characters Miho and Gou are never seen in a swimsuit.  Miho is just the homeroom teacher and faculty advisor, while Gou is the swim club manager and the group's friend; not a love interest.
Free! Iwatobi Swim Club is getting a second season in the Summer due to the anime's massive popularity.  I will be happy to review the second season.  For anyone who still wants more Free!, I suggest watching the Free! parody 50% off on Youtube.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Vamplets Book One: The Nightmare Nursery

This post was brought you by Anime and Video Games on Of Anime and Video Games.

If anyone remembers my post about the anime convention called Nekocon, then you might remember seeing a picture of Vamplets Book One: The Nightmare Nursery.   I was drawn to the cover by Amanda Coronado's unique style and the bright colors on the cover.    There is one thing I love the most about webcomics is that the author and the artist can be creative without having to stick to certain conventions.  
The hardcover of the webcomic I brought at Nekocon

Vampyre babies, vamplets, are popping  out of the blue (literally...when vampyre couples say "I love you", a vampyre baby pops out of thin air).  Like good parents, the vampyre couples call for someone else to take care of their offspring.  Destiny Harbor is a human looking for a better job.  She would rather babysit than spend hours selling corndogs in a mall.  A huge flying moth, from a world called Gloomvania, gives her a job add for a babysitter position as Governess of "The Nightmare Nursery".  Thanking the moth was some kind of dream, she takes the offer and goes to Gloomvania and takes care of five vampyre babies.  
The artwork of Vamplets
Despite the story taking place in night time, the use of pink and purple color combinations are pleasing to the eye.  The artist has a talent in drawing multiple characters that all have a distant look.  
This is not a serious comic in the least.  There is plenty of humor to be had in Vamplets as the comic is very self-aware.   The world building in Vamplets is a parent in Gloomvania where "sweet is hideous, and hideous is sweet".   Destiny could run into some issues with the zombies, werewolves, and other vampyres running about who would love to do some harm to her.  Not to forget that the vampyre parents want their babies to be perfect.  I would like to read more of Vamplets whenever the creator makes more content.  
Vamplets Book One: The Nightmare Nursery is a humorous webcomic with a distant artstyle and a unique story.  If its worth a read.  

Monday, January 13, 2014

Beast Master Manga Review

This review was brought to you by Midnight Ice Queen on Of Anime and Video Games 

It’s not often that I talk about short and sweet mangas, mainly because they are over to soon and I hate that. A short manga can give you a pleasant evening or a sad evening when you reach the end of the story. Especially if you want more, but Beast Master is a awesome little story that wraps you in a sweet embrace before saying goodbye.
The main character is Yuiko. She loves animals with a frightening intensity that sends every animal in the vicinity running. Even her own cat doesn’t like her, but this does not keep her from trying to befriend every animal she sees.
One night while searching for her cat she meet Aoi, a naïve and pure hearted boy who is often alienated from humans because of his scary appearance. Animals love him while people are afraid of him. He is sweet, shy, and socially awkward. He also has a berserk mode that activates when he is injured and sees blood. Because of his appearance, he gets into dangerous situations through no fault of his own.
Yuiko becomes his first friend, as she’s not afraid of animal attacks and certainly not afraid of a beast boy. Aoi is scared to lose her as a friend, but Yuiko sticks by him despite his scary appearance or his berserk mode. Slowly, but not surprisingly, they both start to fall in love.
I like romance stories. I particularly like the ones where the main character do not instantly fall in love. I like a slow romance where things happen gradually. Yuiko and Aoi relationship in some ways is more mature and pure than a lot of high school romance manga.
Some troubling things do happen to both Aoi and Yuiko, through no fault of their own. When danger comes and Aoi is goes into survival-mode Yuiko is always there to pull him back to humanity. She also helps him establish relationships with other classmates while he helps her get animals to like her. Their relationship is a good balance of give and take, with Yuiko protecting his feelings when he is misunderstood and Aoi pouring her with affection for being so good to him.
Beast Master is a cute and sweet story. It has dark moments and problems outside of an ordinary life. Thankfully Aoi and Yuiko get through their problems together. There is an art to a short story. A way of giving them enough to keep them wishing for more while still being content. If I had one gripe it would be how short the manga is, but sometimes I guess it’s best not to tamper with a good story.
Love this image

Monday, January 6, 2014

Skip Beat Manga Review

This review was brought to you by Midnight Ice Queen on Of Anime and Manga!
I don’t know what drew me to Skip Beat, but it’s a story I immensely enjoy. Skip Beat is a about love, or the lack there off, transformation, and revenge. Imagine if you will, this scenario:
Imagine you are an orphaned girl who had a crush on your childhood friend, Shou-chan for as long as you could remember. Imagine also, that you are taken in by his family with the intentions of being his future wife. You are taught to be a proper Japanese wife and run the family business. Your whole life revolves around him and his needs.
Then he decides not to take over the family business and become a top pop idol. He moves to Tokyo for his big chance and you follow him. You find a job to support him and neglect school to make his dreams come true and as soon as he’s signed and begins to make a name for himself, well…he sorts of drops you like you were nothing.
He’s been cheating for a while, he’s been unromantic and uninterested in you, and he is honestly surprised that you are still so gullible and naive. You catch him cheating and he really doesn’t care. This would describe the life of Kyoko in Skip Beat.
Kyoko felt like her heart was ripped from her chest and placed in a grinding machine. She swears revenge on Shou and declares that she will become a better star than he ever was. She also vows never love again. Blaming her predicament on her love for Shou.
Kyoko is surprisingly good at transforming herself for her acting roles, but Shou disregards her achievements, which drives her deeper and deeper into a fit of rage. Her mentor and love interest Tsuruga Ren wants her to get over Shou and live her life, but Kyoko’s rage won’t let her.
Plus Factor
I love the artwork and the humor. Some things in this manga really had me laughing. I also love seeing Kyoko act. Seeing her transform almost completely into the character is surreal and you can tell she has potential to be a great actor. You find yourself loving to watch her perform and anticipating when she will become even better than before. The other characters all support her journey in their own way, but Ren and Kyoko is the relationship you will probably be waiting to develop the most.
She's like a wrathful angel! I love it.
Kyoko sometimes get in her head way to much. In the later chapters, you will find way to many pages dedicated just to her internal monologue. Kyoko also allows Shou to continue to manipulate her  through anger, which gets tiresome. I tried to remember that Kyoko is still so young, but sometimes I think she needs a splash of cold water to wake her up.
Another negative is the plot line. Sometimes things seem to happen in odd order. I couldn’t get a good sense of the timeline. Some events that was suppose to take maybe a day in Kyoko’s life seem to take several chapters to get through. The pacing on some events might seem to long while others are to short. It puts me off a bit. It’s like something is wrong with the storytelling, but I just can’t put my finger on what.
Skip Beat will give you laughs. It will make you smile and make you frown. Some things will break your heart and some things will fill you with joy. Skip Beat lets you see the fragile side of the characters and where they are hurt the most. It’s not as light-hearted as the cover art, and it has this depth to it that makes it…more.
I’m glad I started this manga and I hope to see Kyoko become an amazing actor, but only for herself. I would also like to see Ren allow himself to live again, but time will tell. If zany, crazy, and funny characters appeal to you than you might want to give this a read. Skip Beat is like a rollercoaster ride. If you’re up for something different, creative, and sometimes insane then you might have found your match.
Yes, that is Kyoko while acting!


I can remember the first time I ever watched Berserk. We were having a sleepover that night and had popcorn and ice cream during our anime marathon. We were still in high school, and at this point in our lives tended to shy away from anime that was to bloody and gory. So how we ever ending up watching this anime will forever be a mystery, but I am happy it happened.
Berserk is for a mature audience. It will get violent, graphic, and portray adult situations, so this is not something you should watch with the young or, like…your mother. The story revolves around a tank named Guts(or Gatts) with a rough childhood, a beautiful fairy tale prince named Griffith, and their mercenary band. Griffith and Guts are orphans who soon become friends, but they are as different as night and day.
Griffith is a man filled with ambition, charisma, and brilliance. People follow him because they believe in his dream, and his strength; they also want to see him succeed. Guts lacks charisma and is well-versed in the art of not giving a crap. If you follow him it is because you respect him, need his protection, or your smart enough to want to be his ally instead of his enemy. Guts has few friends, but those he lets in will have his loyalty and his trust.
These two first met on a battlefield. Griffith is able to defeat the unbeatable Guts and gains him as an ally and friend. Guts joins Griffith’s mercenary group and helps him towards his goal of being king. Years pass and they gain more allies, friends, and enemies. Griffith gets so close to his dreams that he could taste it, but things don’t go exactly as planned. A devastating tragedy occurs and the anime leaves Guts with a heavy burden to bear.
The manga gives you the back-story of Guts and Griffith and shows the early years of their lives before tragedy strikes. The manga also answers your questions about what happened after the anime. If the anime is the beginning, then the manga is the continuation. Guts is still bad to the bone and often misunderstood or targeted because of his appearance. He has a goal and a long journey that he must complete after the conclusion of the anime. He travels from place to place, slowly gathering his own band of followers along the way to fulfill his quest.
You also get to see how the world has changed since the events of manga. Magic is discovered. New creatures that were once myth became real and the people are in for a huge wake up call. Only Guts and Griffith seem to know what’s going on.
Plus Factor
Every anime or manga got something going for it, and for a great series like Berserk you can find lots of stuff to love. For me the best thing about Berserk is its setting, characters, drama, artwork, and execution.
Medieval fantasy stories are my bread and butter. I love this setting, but life is no fairytale in Guts’ world. Crime, corruption, the oppression of the weak and poor, and everyday life is hard on the people. It is not for the meek. Throw in monsters/demons, Gods, and other magic users and Berserk gives me everything I love.
Every character is interesting in this story, even the minor ones. It is easy to overlook or gloss over good character development, but the writers took their time to develop strong characters. Guts and Griffin are some of the most interesting people to watch evolve and go through challenges, but they aren’t the only characters I love . A certain blond guy who shows up later and is blessed by fairies (yes, I said fairies) is someone I am dying to learn about. His mindset and motivations are still a mystery to me.
Another thing this series got going for it is that they are not afraid to put their character through the ringer. Everyone can go through something horrific and no one is safe. The only one you know will survive is Guts because he’s the main character, but that does not mean he will not suffer as much or sometimes more than anyone else. These characters got hardships. They have battles. They have scars. They also get back up…adapt, and somehow come out better than before.
The story is never lacking in drama and stunning artwork. The battles and fight scenes are amazing. They leave you with a sense of “Wow!” (That was cool) and “Wow!” (He/she really didn’t have to die like that did he/she?). For the writers to put a good storyline, strong characters, a nice setting, and stunning graphics into one series and execute it in a way that best displays all of its brilliance and positive traits at the right time and way is simply amazing.
I would suggest you watch the anime and read the manga. If you read one without watching the other for example, you will be missing out. Especially if you like fully fleshed characters that have real and extraordinary problems, a good plotline, great drama, and depth.
This review was made by Midnight Ice Queen for Of Anime and Video Games